Business Hilights
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Can NCC accept GSMA option to change spectrum licensing narrative?

Being disturbed by the failing way and manner several African regulators, especially the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has got puzzled on licensing of currently freed spectrum including 2.6 MHz, 700 and 800 MHz for too long, the Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA) has come up with a solution.

In its latest report, the group advised regulators to adopt technology neutral spectrum licensing so as to consumers and businesses to benefit from the best possible mobile broadband experience.

Business Hilights recalls that ahead of the appointment of Prof Umar Danbatta as the EVC of NCC, moves to auction 2.6 MHz had started, but his efforts succeeded halfway as not all slots were taken due to lack of coordination by the Commission.

The issue of poor auctioning coordination was exposed during a follow up stakeholders’ forum in Lagos after it was discovered that only MTN Nigeria bided and won some slots while other players pulled out.

Majority of other data segment players complained that the way and manner NCC packaged the auctioning showed that it already had a target winner based on the high price it set for the auction.

At the end of the forum, NCC announced plans to review the entire process and come up with a more accommodating auctioning regime, but more than two years down the lane, the Commission had remained silent on the re-auctioning.

While the endless wait for NCC’s re-auctioning of 2.6MHz and other spectrum continues, it is important to mention that GSMA equally noted that the new idea in licensing spectrum enables 2G or 3G spectrum to be re-farmed for 4G as well as 5G, at a pace driven by market demand. It stressed that beyond mobile broadband, the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) market is also making the need to adopt neutral licences more urgent.

According to GSMA, “To get technology neutrality right, key considerations, which represents the interest of over 800 mobile network operators and vendors across the globe, should include; attempts to extract additional revenue have misfired and held back the introduction of new mobile technologies; while a renewal process provides an opportunity to re-issue spectrum licences as neutral, regulators should not delay the introduction by waiting for the expiry dates of existing licences; when assigning new spectrum, regulators should do so in a technology-neutral manner or at the very least not restrict the introduction of next generation technologies, such as 5G.”

GSMA report further revealed that some countries in the region have not yet moved to technology-neutral spectrum licences and are still issuing technology-specific licences or have not decoupled spectrum licences from operating licences.

In the spirit of the report, “This means consumers and businesses do not benefit from the best possible mobile broadband experience and can end up paying more for inferior services.”